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Comparing Two Poems: Advice to My Son by Peter Meineke and Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

4 pages
956 words
Middlebury College
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The poet gives his son hope by telling him that its all about time and patience is key to a joyous life. He stresses that if the son can survive the tough times and successfully overcome those horrendous life occurrences, he will be lucky to lead a happy life. He quotes that ones destiny may not necessarily be some heaven type but at least he will end up in a happy place where he will be happy just enough.

The tone of the poet is that of sincerity. A father who is very sincere but at the same time using his poetic lyrics to explain profoundly important aspects and things in life. Meinke talks to his son convincingly as most of these are things that he has been through. This is advice from an older and wiser person.

The author also analyses how various practical ideas are short lived. He symbolically uses a red rose to as a representation of beauty that fades with time. The lesson that he tries to teach his son through this is how various things deemed beautiful in life seem to lose their beauty fast, and they are forgotten. Therefore, it is important that one does things that will leave behind an eternal mark and not chase things with beauty that fades away quickly. In another instance, he uses nectar in a desert to symbolize beauty. He argues that beauty is evidently striking and satisfying at first sight and that beauty is what makes life beautiful. He juxtaposes this by the saying that in life we need more than just the outer beauty but also intellect. In as much as nectar is sweet, we also need to make something out of it that can be sustaining.This relates to a real situation when it comes to choosing a girl for marriage. He advises his son to go out of his way to dig deeper into knowing her personality because beauty fades with time whereas personality will develop from time to time.

He also advises his son to appreciate the role of other people around him. According to the author, no man is an island, and in one way or another, we are likely to need the input of people around us. Lastly, Meineke advises his son to learn to appreciate all things in life. Some things may manage to bring joy to us very fast while others take time before they can be pleasurable and attractive to us. In his closing remark (Meinke ,7) she tells his son to learn always to serve his bread with his wine but always serves wine. Wine symbolically represents a life with happiness and one in which every moment is lived to the best of ones ability. Additionally, he stresses how important it is to also invest in planning for the future.

In the second poem, Mother to my son, the poet who is a mother is advising her son. She has been through numerous challenges in life hence she tells her son that he is likely to face several diversities in life which he must overcome. Unlike the tone of Meineke which one of sincerity, the tone of the voice of Langston Hughes is bold and tough. According to her, her son must strive hard to achieve success. She has been through a hard life, but in the end, she manages to achieve her dreams, and therefore she believes that her son should be able to do the same.

She compares her journey to a staircase. She symbolically alludes her life to a staircase that is rough, full of protruding nails and woods jutting out. These are used to symbolizes the challenges and hardships that she has been through to build the woman she is today. And it is for this reason that she believes her son should remain steady and bold through his life journey (Hughes,1).

The poem also suggestively enlightens us of the negative effects of exploitation and racism on black Americans by the negatives. She tries to instill courage and resilience in her son by urging him to stay strong as the journey is one that is challenging and tedious.

Unlike the poem advice to my son which is ideally symbolic, the poem by Hughes is metaphorical as it reflects on life as a staircase. The author tells his son that he should not give in to the pressures of life but instead surgeon.

Unlike Meinkes poem which is more of a persuasive poem where the father is urging his son to brace himself for life challenges, Hughes poses a challenge to his son by telling him that if she has made it thus far, he has no reason to give up. While the poem advice to my son, stresses on the need to live in the present, the poem mother to son looks more into the future where a mother urges his son to strive and toil today since there is a reward in the end (future) which is a success. The poet in the mother to son uses her own life experience to teach her son whereas in the poem advise to my son; the father draws examples from his own life as well as that of people around them. The first poem stresses more on choices whereas the second poem emphasizes hard work and resilience (Richard,12).

However, the two poems are similar in the manner of the subject brought out. Both poems are about advice from parents to their sons and the main subject reflected upon is life. The two poems mostly explore symbolism as their style device.



Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. 2011.

Meinke, Peter. Advice to My Son. 1965.

Richard, Wilbur. Responses. New York, 1976.


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